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Uncovered Capitals Bury Disorganized Penguins, 5-2

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Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals

The puck dropped at 1 p.m., and the Pittsburgh Penguins hopes of a third straight win dropped soon after. The disjointed Penguins jumped forward but coverages and responsibilities broke down quickly. Washington scored five goals with nary a Penguins defender within sight, and that’s not hyperbole. Penguins goalie Matt Murray watched helplessly as even the Washington fourth-line center Nic Dowd sprung for two uncovered goals including the heartbreaking shorthanded goal in the third period.

Washington controlled the Penguins for a 5-2 win at PPG Paints Arena on Saturday afternoon.

Just under two minutes into the game, the Penguins fourth line was caught up ice and Washington fourth-line center Nic Dowd was left alone in the slot. Dowd (6) one-timed a quick pass from Garnet Hathaway past Penguins goalie Matt Murray.

The Penguins were not without opportunity in the first period. Midway through the first period, the Penguins squandered a five-on-three by attempting just two shots on goal and getting only one on net.

The Penguins over-eager attack and porous defensive coverage burned them throughout the first period but cost them two more goals two minutes apart, late in the period.

Washington center Nicklas Backstrom (12) was alone on the backdoor and easily snapped a pass from Jakub Vrana into the yawning cage. The Penguins were again chasing the puck and players to get into position.

In the final 90 seconds of the first period, the Washington fourth line struck again. Richard Panik was the next forward to be bequeathed the puck on the doorstep without a Penguins defender in sight. Panik (9) popped it behind Murray to the delight of the thousands of Capitals fans who made the trip from Washington.

The Penguins had far more energy in the second period but the results weren’t any more productive. They had only seven shots on goal and squandered another power play, but at least Washington didn’t score either.

The Penguins best opportunity was from Jared McCann late in the second period. McCann blocked a shot in the defensive zone then raced for a breakaway chance. However, Washington defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler slashed McCann, who earned a penalty shot. Washington goalie Braden Holtby neatly turned aside McCann’s forehand deke.

The Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington each had seven shots in the second period.

Early in the third period, Washington ended any mystery of the outcome and again pressured the Penguins with an odd-man rush. After defenseman Brenden Dillon took a delay of game penalty for knocking the net off the moorings in the final seconds of the second period, the Penguins began the third period on the power play, but it was Washington, not the Penguins who lit the lamp.

Former Penguins forward Carl Hagelin created a turnover at the top of the zone and bolted for a two-on-one with Dowd. Penguins defenseman Kris Letang converged on Hagelin and Dowd (7) was again alone in front of Murray for a goal.

The Penguins did find some life and legs in the third period. Winger Conor Sheary stole the puck behind the Washington net and quickly set up Sidney Crosby (16) in the crease. However, Crosby’s lack of celebration told a bigger story than the goal.

Later in the third period, the Pittsburgh Penguins finally converted one of their five power plays. Evgeni Malkin (22) snapped a wrist shot past Holtby. However, less than one minute later, Washington rudely stamped out the Penguins flickering hopes when T.J. Oshie scored.

Oshie (26) was uncovered in the Penguins slot and ripped it past Murray.

Murray made his third straight start for the first time since November. He stopped 23 of 28 shots. Holtby wasn’t tested much. He stopped 26 of 28 shots.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now owner, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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